A NASA study has come up with a list of common house plants that are natural air cleaners, helping us breathe by absorbing the pollutants in the air. Research reveals that foliage removes many dangerous gases, among then benzene and formaldehyde.

The study recommends 15 to 18 houseplants in 5-8 inch diameter pots for an average 1,800 sq-foot house.

The table lists the top recommended plants.

Massangeana cornstalk dracaena Weeping fig
Warneckj dracaena  Peace lily 
Red-edge dracaena  Bamboo or reed palm 
Janet Craig dracaena  Snake plant 
Chinese evergreen  Elephant ear philodendron 
Spider plant  Selloum philodendron 
English ivy  Heartleaf philodendron
Golden pothos   

Can plants control indoor air pollution? Recent reports in the media and promotions by the decorative houseplant industry characterize plants as "nature's clean air machine", claiming that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research shows plants remove indoor air pollutants. While it is true that plants remove carbon dioxide from the air, and the ability of plants to remove certain other pollutants from water is the basis for some pollution control methods, the ability of plants to control indoor air pollution is less well established. Most research to date used small chambers without any air exchange which makes extrapolation to real world environments extremely uncertain. The only available study of the use of plants to control indoor air pollutants in an actual building could not determine any benefit from the use of plants69. As a practical means of pollution control, the plant removal mechanisms appear to be inconsequential compared to common ventilation and air exchange rates. In other words, the ability of plants to actually improve indoor air quality is limited in comparison with provision of adequate ventilation.

While decorative foliage plants may be aesthetically pleasing, it should be noted that over damp planter soil conditions may actually promote growth of unhealthy microorganisms.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
15 House Plants You Can Use As Air Purifiers / Air Purifier Review Site
Top 20 air-cleaning houseplants / Scripps Howard News Service
How to Grow Fresh Air -- 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office / Dr. B.C. Wolverton / 1997, Penguin

Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals / Can plants control indoor air pollution? / Environmental Protection Agency

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